Entertainment-Education; Narrative Persuasion; Video Games; Stigma; Empathy
All Rights Retained by Kristy M. Najarian and Bryant University
Many college students find themselves struggling with mental health problems (ACHA, 2015). Individuals with mental illness not only battle with the disease, but with the stigma society has developed toward them, leading to a diminished quality of life. Education and contact are two antistigma approaches utilized in this study (Corrigan & Watson, 2002). This thesis aims to understand players’ involvement in the video game narrative (i.e., narrative engagement and transportation) and its relationship with empathy and attitudes toward people with mental illness. As a way to alleviate stigma, college students (N = 97) were surveyed after playing the video game Fran Bow that was perceived by a focus group as having low in-game stereotypes. Contrary to prediction, results indicated that the video game did not have an effect on participants’ empathy or attitudes toward people with mental illness. However, an exploratory assessment of media user characteristics offers interesting insights to the results. Additionally, findings suggest that those who were more involved in the narrative held more in-game story consistent beliefs. Overall, these results imply that video games can play an important role in prosocial change; however, the nature of the game and player characteristics may influence outcomes, therefore more research is needed.